July, 2010

Patterns

Patterns

It often is very odd how the human mind likes to “work” – I have read many alleged scientific articles on the mind insisting how it is into organizing thoughts in some manner, on how we feel comfortable with symmetry, lines, and categorization, and how everything we do or impose on ourselves – including racism, class, prejudice, and war – is simply nothing than a materialistic projection of our thought patterns.

Intriguing and debatable, until I came across my thick journal that I used to write in. I’ve talked countless times about my many journals before, but this particular one has such a wealth of information it often scares me to the point of me wanting to destroy it. But alas, the writer in me begs to keep it, conjuring up illusions of my future at a wooden vintage typewriter with that journal the sole survival, and proof, of many memories in my life. I opened up the pages of the book to read what I have written in the last week of July during the past decade.

What I found, worried me, only slightly but nevertheless made me wake up to something I have always known; my life is being dictated by thought patterns. Through the gibberish nonsense of my teens it was easy to pick out patterns that occur at roughly the same time every year. The overarching storyline is that I always feel lost regardless of whatever external indications I receive and convince myself of. On the details, there are always the same cycles I go through.

Every period of months, of every year, follow the same pattern. Like the seasons, my life takes a course and my mind dictates how I should be feeling. In several accounts, the same people have been mentioned and it is typically the same annual scenarios. In the winter months, the tales focus on a different group of people and the events share a similar pattern. And so it goes year after year.

In fact, I was looking at an entry a few years back directed at my cousin who shares the same name. As I read it, I felt as though it has been written by someone else and dedicated it to me. It’s the biggest Karma bite I have ever experienced.

What’s different now is that the characters changed and so have their stories, but the arch story is still, to a large degree, the same. It feels as though the only way to predict what’s coming in the next few months is to read about them in my past.

Can the mind really be so powerful as to manifest itself as life?

Bottled Water, or Tap?

Bottled Water, or Tap?

I remember in 97 when I was in NYC, often I was asked if I would like to have tap water or bottled water. Even when watching shows, I see people filling in water from the tap, and often wondered why the hell would someone do that.

Then again when I was in Saudi I knew exactly where our water came from – we used to fill an underground well in our villa and I knew exactly how that well looked like from the inside. Though we had it cleaned and painted and sterilized, it remained a well and the trees and plants in the garden always found their way to penetrate through.

So for me tap water was a no no.

In Syria, we have filters. Bottled water was only seen in restaurants to boost the bill. My friend who works for the Abu Dhabi Electric & Water Authority claims that the water here is safe to drink, the one being distributed anyway, and depending on the quality and cleanliness of the piping on a building by building case things may differ.

Now after seeing this video, I think I will buy filters for 90-something AED and save myself a shitload of money on bottled water. You can get the fact sheet in the more info pane on the video page. What I find interesting though is that if this is done by something we take for granted, such as water, then what about everything else?

Hello, I’m Another Social Media Expert

Hello, I’m Another Social Media Expert

Since I joined twitter in April 2009 (thanks to Zaher who nags more than I do), I was introduced to an incredible world of up to date spam, infinite ways to spend/waste time, attention disorders and, more importantly, entrepreneurs and social media experts.

I may sound like a hypocrite as I am a heavy contributer to spam on twitter and Facebook. I do love discovering the web, bringing together photos and links I find interesting, important or funny and share them with my friends. Sometimes a bit too much during the day. I also was introduced to a bucketful of amazing people who have become my friends. And I have used the medium to promote my photo blog and this blog, which did bring in more traffic, as well as find a few freelance jobs and what not. So it isn’t all about spam, on my part of my followers’.

However, I do not claim to be a social media expert.

I do not understand why people have the notion that if they have a Facebook fan page and a twitter account for them and/or their product/corp  that makes them social media experts. Funnier, still, they talk about how their business models presumably changed and share their “expertise” on the subject matter with others who also want to jump on this bandwagon.

There is much more to social media than simply opening accounts on every possible channel. Planning is involved, analytics, monitoring, “engagement”, choosing the right updates at the right time through the correct medium and such jargon an average internet user doesn’t need to be bored with. Pointing out how twitter changed the Iranian elections doesn’t make anyone a social media expert. Having a Facebook page with a portfolio of startups (that have just started) doesn’t make anyone an entrepreneur.

That’s not to say there aren’t social media experts out there amongst all the others. There are people who have a strategy, have and still are planning the paths and focus of their businesses/startups. To those, hats off to you. But if you’re selling stitched socks through twitter you’re no more of an expert than anyone else, me included, sharing links on the medium. بالعربي, مو كل مين صف الصواني .. قال أنا حلواني

Zen

One of the great things about photography is that it tunes your mind to see the “big picture”, to flip the world around and climb atop scrapers to capture the beauty and the vastness of the horizon.

When everyone tries to squeeze in a scene into a frame, others focus on the little things in life – the world of insects, droplets, and the textures that form the foundation of everything else. In that little world, when you decide what is important and what is in focus, you come to realize how cluttered everything else is.

I am now in a stage where I am sick of being bombarded left and right with the unnecessary, taxing my brain into filtering out what is duly valuable and what has no tangible purpose or quality. Moving to an area outside of the city has filtered out much of the city noise and traffic, much to my relief, and I could dedicate more time and mental energy to attend into more important matters, quietly I might add.

My decluttering process is a long one – involving the disposal of many household items that have been retained in store rooms and drawers for that one time I might use them that never comes. Trapped in their own memories, they trap me in theirs as I constantly struggle to decide what really matters and what doesn’t. Living with my sibling does require compromises, but there are so many lost items behind doors and cabinets needing to find a proper resting place.

In the ever-interconnected web everyone competes to be on top, adding insurmountable amounts of widgets and links and interactivity, most of which are unnecessary and a very few websites that succeed in effectively optimizing their junk to their own good. A look at a twitter timeline shows you how people – myself included – add to each other’s clutter in a way or another. When everyone is an entrepreneur or a social media expert because they have a twitter account and a facebook fan page, I’d like to periodically go back to the real world, to the smell of aging paper in books, going out to parks and beaches and talk to people face to face.

Looking back at what’s around me I decided it is time I redesign my blog and photo gallery and other things. Previously I thought of giving each a distinctive look and feel but have decided to strip them all down to the bare essentials. My blog does look a bit bland now by common standards – no gloss or interactivity – but, as selfish as it is, this is my blog and I can do whatever I wish with it.

And right now I want it clutter free.

The design is not done yet – I do have to create rebranded logo for this blog and the photo gallery, but they’re all functionally sound, I hope, as far as I am concerned. Some colour quirks here and there will be ironed out in the coming days as well.

My only wish is for all cities to be flattened to 4-storey buildings at the most, each with a lush front and back yard. If these tall towers of this day and age ever reach a limit, it is that of mediocrity.

Book Review: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A warm summer afternoon in Damascus demands no less than losing oneself to the pages of a book. I stretched out on the balcony, amidst a light breeze and under the golden glow of the sun, to read The Angel’s Game, the new masterpiece by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of Shadow of the Wind, a book that held me captive to its timeless tale a few years back.

The sound of car horns and traffic gradually faded away as I was absorbed into the world of David Martín, a writer amidst the turbulent and gothic 1920′s Barcelona, the mysterious circumstances, his house, and the sinister and playful characters around him.

Like Shadow of the Wind, the centerpiece puzzle of the story is in a book that has been retrieved from The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a hidden, secret library that is home to a labyrinth of books that would have otherwise been destroyed and forgotten. Unlike Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game is a far more sinister and mysteriously interesting read.

The cleverly written plot, told in the first person from David’s perspective, crosses the lines between what is real and what is perceptually feasible, and even metaphysically impossible. The encounters with Andreas Corelli, the unusual antagonist – for the lack of a better term – are peculiarly intense, often filled with philosophical and theological arguments that would further change the course of the story, and David’s psyche, which, I believe, is the main antagonist. These chilling, schizophrenic stretches of narration are split by a troubled (and frightening) love story, interesting well-developed relationships with other characters, and a very endearing friendship between David and Isabella, his apprentice, which form the bulk of the much needed comedy.

As the story progresses, it becomes impossible to put down – I had to finish the book in three sittings, across three days, out of fear of forgetting the minute details that make the story’s convoluted plot. Relationships, people, events, and even Shadow of the Wind (though no prior reading is required, the final puzzle piece snaps in if you did) all seemingly irrelevant and scattered, become intertwined, either in David’s mind or in reality – one could not tell until the very last paragraph of the book – all set against a beautiful yet morbidly dark Barcelona.

It’s a book that’s certainly should not be missed.